The verdict is in. After over a year of PSC’s (latest) costly and time-consuming effort to lobby “progressive” politicians and the Board of Trustees to enlarge CUNY’s budget, the new budget dropped on April 1st. To say it is wretched is an understatement. It doesn’t even fund CUNY’s mandatory cost increases such as rent, energy, contractual step increases, and fringe benefits. It’s unclear how CUNY will even fund something President Bowen claimed was won in the last contract: a course load reduction for full-time faculty. For adjuncts, the situation is even more dire. There’s nothing even approaching $7K. Adjuncts are offered the same paltry 2% raise everyone else gets.
In short, all the bus trips to Albany, pep rallies for the cameras, endorsements of “progressive” Democrats, phone calls, postcards, and persuasive moral arguments at the Board of Trustees meetings have come to naught. This latest rebuke of the lobbying tactic might be brushed off by the relatively affluent full-timers who call the shots in PSC, and continue to cling to illusions that change will come from speaking truth to power. They are comfortable enough to be able to afford their fantasies. For adjunct faculty, however, these illusions threaten to rob us of our ability to keep the lights on, the rent paid, and our most basic needs met. For us, this foolishness is deathly serious.
The real story of last week was not the regrettable smear lodged against the $7K or Strike campaign by a small group of union politicians. Instead, it was the PSC bargaining team’s counter-offer, issued unilaterally to CUNY with no consultation even with our Delegate Assembly. Depending on who you talk to, this offer could represent a retreat from the demand for a $7K/course adjunct minimum wage that has been a cornerstone of contract negotiations until now. Is it any wonder President Bowen took this moment to attack the activists fighting hardest for $7K?
The following statement was written by a comrade at Borough of Manhattan Community College, and distributed to members of their PSC chapter shortly after the counter-offer was announced. We welcome analysis about the meaning of this offer moving forward. We refuse to be distracted from the real issues, and we sure as hell won’t stop building a movement to win #7KorStrike.
The New Caucus and the leadership of the PSC CUNY have already begun to back away from the demand for $7K. The rank and file must say NO to this betrayal.
Last week the New Caucus Leadership unveiled its counter-proposal to management’s first economic offer and the results are not promising. What has happened and what can we do?
At the Queens College chapter meeting of the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, a vote was held on a resolution in support of going on strike if CUNY does not agree at the bargaining table to pay adjunct faculty $7k per course minimum. Current starting pay is less than half of that amount, with many adjuncts teaching a full-time load for poverty wages of roughly $20k a year. Annual percentage raises won in prior contracts have only increased the salary gap between the lowest- and highest-paid faculty members.
The resolution sparked a lively discussion after PSC Vice President for Senior Colleges Penny Lewis reported on the state of the contract bargaining process and the union’s lobbying efforts to fund CUNY. At its peak, the March 20 meeting was attended by about 34 PSC members who work at Queens College. Of approximately 25 who were still there when the vote took place, 14 voted for the resolution, four voted against, and three abstained. Several people did not vote.
CUNY Struggle has been hard at work organizing with the campaign for #7KorStrike, a citywide coalition working from the bottom-up to win $7K per course for CUNY adjuncts by putting CUNY politics back in the hands of students and the rank-and-file.
In defiance of the snow and an asteroid belt of MTA delays, last Saturday’s 7K or Strike Conference & Organizing Day drew over 100 people from across CUNY and beyond, for a day of sharing knowledge, pooling resources, and strategizing for the fight ahead.
Grade-ins bring unwaged adjunct labor into the hallways of CUNY campuses, to call attention to adjunct exploitation while simultaneously building a movement to win $7K by any means necessary. Grade-ins have been held at Brookyn College, BMCC, Lehman, Hostos, and John Jay. If you’d like to see one on your campus, don’t wait for instructions from on high; organize it yourself! Just be sure to invite us 🙂
Check out the photo gallery below for a sample of what’s been happening at CUNY so far this year. If you’d like to get involved, what’s the holdup? We are the PSC, and we are CUNY! Join us. #7KorStrike
Tabling for #7KorStrike at BMCC
Student solidarity is driving the movement at Brooklyn College
Huge crowd at the People’s Form for the #7KorStrike Conference!
It’s nice to hear from more than one speaker at a union organizing event!
Selfies for #7KorStrike
Campus breakout group at the #7KorStrike Conference
Campus breakout group at the #7KorStrike Conference
Campus breakout group at the #7KorStrike Conference
#7KorStrike Conference panel on mapping and organizing your campus
Who says there’s nothing good on TV?
Tom Watters from Brookly College discusses building a rank-and-file movement on his campus
Noeleen McIlvenna from Wright State University discusses their recent strike
Panel on the Taylor Law at #7KorStrike Conference
Brooklyn College student Sarah Gee breaks down the natural solidarity between students and adjunct faculty
Grade-in at BMCC
Grade-in for #7KorStrike at Hostos
Grade-in at Brooklyn College
Brooklyn College draws a crowd!
Grade-in at Lehman College
#7KorStrike supporters at Lehman grade-in
BMCC Crew at it again, flyering the Public Advocate debate in the snow
Join CUNY Struggle and our comrades from the 7K or Strike campaign for a day of planning and scheming to win 7K per course by any means necessary!
This will be a CUNY-Wide Conference and Organizing Day on “7K or Strike,” organized by an ad hoc committee of rank-and-file activists from campuses across the CUNY system. The conference is part of ongoing efforts to build, broaden, and deepen support for the type of action needed to win the demand (now formally adopted by the CUNY faculty-staff union) for $7,000 per course minimum pay for adjuncts.
It will include reports from campuses where “$7K or Strike” resolutions have passed or are pending; organizing for next steps; and discussions on linking up with CUNY undergrads; lessons from education workers’ strikes, labor, and immigrant-worker struggles in NYC and beyond; and how to overcome obstacles posed by New York State’s Taylor Law and CUNY’s multi-tier labor system, in order to build the kind of power and unity needed to win.
For more information, write: email@example.com or check out the event listing here.
For those of us who work and study at CUNY, the story of Los Angeles schools is all too familiar. For decades, LAUSD was kept alive on a starvation budget, the inadequacy of which was exacerbated by a rapid rise in charter schools which further ate up public reserves. Teachers were asked to do more with less. Teach more students. Prepare for more (standardized) tests. Work more hours. Accept less pay. Lose support staff. Note that, though your students and their families are often in crisis—struggling to make ends meet in a hyper-segregated city where affordable housing is a thing of the past—you are to deliver better academic results. Do not focus too much on the alienation and fear of your students as they attempt to make sense of their place in the City of Angels, where all new infrastructure is built for the rich.
With class sizes of 40 and upward, there is no time to pause and no money to pay a counselor or school psychologist anyway. If you as a teacher are also struggling to find your place in the city, do not question it. Never mind that you, too, are increasingly being pushed to the city’s edges, giving more of your waking hours to your commute. Watch as your Democratic elected officials bend over backwards to lure billion-dollar tech companies into your town, but cry poor when you ask for funding so that your buildings might stop crumbling.
The story is familiar because it is part of a nationwide pattern of attacks on public education, a chronic defunding of the kind CUNY has been subjected to since the 1970s. The end goals of these attacks—to incrementally shut down public institutions and keep the working class in survival mode—are no longer hard to see. We at CUNY Struggle find ourselves in rare agreement with PSC President Barbara Bowen, who noted in her most recent email: “UTLA’s fight is, in a very direct way, our fight,” since “we at CUNY know exactly what austerity education means.”
My mother and father both attended CUNY schools, both were the children of immigrants, both were the part of the first generation in their respective families to attend college. My mother, Rosalind Elowitz graduated from Hunter College in 1944. I wear her college ring. My father, Robert Engler, worked through his undergraduate courses at City College quickly so he could go off to Europe and fight in Patton’s army in World War II. Upon return he attended graduate school at the University of Wisconsin where he was granted a PHD in political science. He taught in many places: Sarah Lawrence, Columbia, and Princeton. But he ended up at CUNY, at Brooklyn College, Queens College, and the Graduate Center. His seminars there were legendary; his guests ranged from government officials, to scholars of all stripes, to poets. I still run into people who remembered his classes with awe. He returned to CUNY and ended his career here because he strongly believed in public education and appreciated the range of students who attended this giant urban institution. Today I teach at CUNY’s City College, continuing this legacy. Continue reading “CUNY Runs in My Family and I Support #7KorStrike”
On December 10th a small group of PSC leaders were intentionally arrested outside a CUNY Board of Trustees meeting at Baruch College as the meeting continued uninterrupted. They demanded increased funding—including to fund a $7K per course minimum wage for adjunct faculty—in the Trustees’ budgetary request to the State. The staged arrests were the culmination of a semester of lobbying, including a campaign to pressure university presidents to in turn pressure Trustees. These activities drew significant time and energy from adjunct activists who picketed Wall Street, collected signatures, and spoke out at public Trustee meetings—despite the knowledge that the Trustees scarcely attend these meetings and are accountable to the Governor and nobody else.
This week, with significantly less fanfare and no comment so far by PSC leadership, the Trustees released the text of their budgetary requests through the 2020 Fiscal Year, to be ratified next week after another perfunctory hearing. The document contains not a single reference to adjuncts. CUNY gets nothing it wasn’t already getting, and tuition is going up yet again. The budget does not even provide funding for the course release for full-timers, which PSC leaders claim was won in the last contract. (It wasn’t.) In the end, all the petitioning and testifying and letter-writing and scripted protesting yielded the same predictable result: nothing.
Nonetheless, just yesterday members of the Graduate Center Chapter received a message from their chair wishing a “7K New Year” and unveiling yet another lobbying trip to Albany to accomplish it. But the Trustees’ budget request is testament to how little can be accomplished by speaking truth to power without wielding the power that comes from our ability to withhold our labor and shut the city down. It’s time to stop addressing the powerful with moral suasion, and focus on building some real power of our own. The sooner we face reality, that preparing for a strike is the only way forward, the better our chances will be. We cannot afford to be backed into this necessary militant action—we need to begin preparing now.
Campus by campus, adjunct activists are leading the way. Join us!
CUNY Struggle and many of our comrades from the campaign for 7K or Strike! are featured prominently in a documentary short about the campaign by filmmaker Martine Granby. Granby should be applauded for refusing the usual narrative of adjuncts as powerless and debased, and choosing instead to showcase the great power we can wield if we get organized and stop doing what we’re told. Check it out below, and be sure to share it around!